Calling India a "rising global power", the US on Thursday said it was "definitely committed" to consider New Delhi for a permanent membership in an expanded UN Security Council and pitched for its greater role in meeting challenges in the region like securing Afghanistan.
Launching the first-ever Strategic Dialogue with External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sought to dispel "doubts" that the US sees India "only or mainly in the context of Afghanistan and Pakistan" and that America "will hasten our departure from Afghanistan leaving India to deal with the aftermath."
She said America felt that India had not "fully embraced" its role in regional and global affairs and said the US was "definitely committed" to consider New Delhi for a permanent membership in an expanded UN Security Council.
"We don't have any way forward yet on the United Nations Security Council reforms but we are obviously very committed to considering India," she said, addressing a joint press conference with Krishna after the inaugural session of the Strategic Dialogue.
"At this point, as you probably know, there is no consensus over all...but we are definitely committed to the consideration of India," she said in response to a query what is stopping the US from endorsing India for a permanent membership in an expanded UNSC.
During the Strategic Dialogue, the two sides discussed situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan region and decided to step up cooperation in a wide range of areas, including security, defence, nuclear energy, climate change, education and agriculture.
They also decided to launch a new dialogue on Climate Change and set up working groups on Food Security issues. The two sides also agreed to meet again in New Delhi next year.
Krishna said the two countries had a very good exchange of views on reforms necessary not only in the international economic architecture, but also in the global political and security architecture, including the UN Security Council, so as to reflect contemporary global realities.
The Minister said both the countries agreed that terrorist groups operate as a syndicate, leveraging each other's assets and strength, and are increasingly converging together on motivation and targets.
"Hence, a segmented approach towards terrorism, especially in our neighbourhood, would not succeed," he said in an apparent reference to Pakistan.
He said India was pleased with the way the counter- terrorism cooperation between the two countries has progressed and that they have agreed to intensify it further.
Clinton described India as an "indispensable partner" and a "trusted friend." "We believe that a rising India is good for the United States and good for the world. Our two nations, great democracies, dynamic and interconnected economies and engines of progress, understand that our fortunes in this new century are increasingly linked," she said.
"Our people are more connected today than ever before, and we face complex global challenges that will be difficult to solve without the United States and India working together," she said.
Noting that both India and the United States have experienced violent extremists, Clinton said she and Krishna discussed the importance of India's leadership to promoting security, stability and prosperity across Asia and beyond.
The two countries are collaborating on a counter-terrorism cooperation initiative to improve information-sharing and capacity-building, and they agreed to expand cooperation in cyber security.
"We are deepening our already-extensive military- to-military partnership," she said.
Krishna said both India and the US shared concerns about developments in Asia, including on the Korean peninsula. "We have a common interest in advancing security and stability across Asia. We shared our perspectives on South and Central Asia, East and Southeast Asia, the Middle East and the Indian Ocean Region," he said.
He said India and the US have a shared convergent goal of a stable, peaceful, pluralistic and democratic Afghanistan, which protects the rights and the dignity of all sections of Afghan society.
"India and the United States are partners in achieving these goals. I conveyed our view that these goals can be best advanced through sustained international commitment to Afghanistan, by building Afghan capacities for governance and security through initiatives that are led and controlled by the Afghans themselves," he said.
"We agreed on the importance of avoiding choices that lead us into the dark alleys of the 1990s, and the importance of safeguarding the gains and progress that have been made since then, especially with regard to the position and rights of women in Afghanistan," Krishna said.
He said today's dialogue has further increased understanding between the two countries on the nature and source of terrorism that threatens both our societies.
Krishna also sought the US to relax export control restrictions on high-tech goods sought by India.
Earlier, in her opening remarks at the start of the dialogue, Clinton said: "India is a rising global power and already a regional power in Asia. Thus more the need to work closely with India to meet the immediate challenges in the neighbourhood including Afghanistan." "India and the US must play a leading role in shaping the destiny of the 21st century," he said.
Hailing India's contribution towards rebuilding of Afghanistan, Clinton said New Delhi has stakes in the future of the trouble-torn country.
"In this dialogue, we will confront regional issues, most importantly securing Afghanistan's future. India and the US and countries of the world have a stake in Afghanistan and India's contribution to Afghanistan's future, including 1.3 billion dollar assistance have been positive and significant," she said.
She talked about "doubts in America that India hasn't fully embraced its role in regional and global affairs or will not make the economic reforms needed to faster additional progress.
"So with this dialogue, the level of confidence that we have established by ourselves, we will confront these concerns directly and candidly."
In his opening remarks, Krishna said, "We both have an abiding interest in a stable international order and in the maintenance of peace and stability in Asia and beyond, and a tremendous opportunity is now before us to work together to achieve this objective."
At the joint interaction, Clinton thanked Krishna for India's generous contributions in Afghanistan. "It is clear that what India has been doing in development projects are very significant, and we look forward to finding ways to collaborate," she said.
Observing that charting an energy future that is secure and sustainable is a crucial challenge for both the countries, she said: "I'm pleased that we have completed a nuclear reprocessing agreement nearly six months ahead of schedule, underlying our commitment to the civil nuclear accord of 2008."
"We are building on the partnership to advance clean energy established by President Obama and Minister Singh, including by expanding our work together on energy efficiency, smart grids, force management and so much else. And we are committed to working on an action plan on shale-gas cooperation prior to President Obama's trip to India."
On economy, she said the two delegation discussed the importance of capitalising on the doubling of their trade over the last five years, bringing together experts from across our government to focus on macroeconomic policy, financial-sector reforms and infrastructure financing.
Clinton said US and Indian Cabinet secretaries and ministers will meet on June 22nd in Washington with the members of the US-India CEO Forum to hear recommendations on specific steps the two governments can take to expand trade and investment.
She said the dialogue must extend beyond these official channels "to our homes, our businesses, our communities, our universities, every aspect of our respective societies -- to build mutual understanding and respect between our peoples."
Krishna noted that the institution of the Strategic Dialogue was a reflection of the deepening and broadening of our relations between the two countries.
In her unusually lengthy speech lasting more than 13 minutes -- Clinton touched upon a wide range of issues from counter-terrorism to climate change, clean energy, food security, international security, bilateral cooperation in the education sector, the civilian nuclear deal and went on to praise India's role in Afghanistan.
She assured the Indian delegation that the US is well aware of India's concerns in the region, Afghanistan in particular and would work with New Delhi to address those. Krishna said the global nature of the security challenges being faced today, particularly the threat posed by transnational terrorism, requires the two countries to cooperate more closely than ever before.
"Though the epicenter of this threat lies in India's neighborhood, it reaches far and wide all across the world as we have seen time and again and most recently a few weeks back in Times Square," he said in an apparent reference to Pakistan.
"Given the fact that the groups who preach the ideology of hatred and violence are increasingly coalescing, sharing resources and operating as one, it is incumbent upon all of us, to focus our efforts laser-like on every one of them," he said.
Targeting only one or other of such groups would only provide false comfort in the short term and will not usher in long term stability," he said in an obvious reference to Pakistan's inability to act against LeT, blamed for the Mumbai attacks. Besides Krishna, other members of the Indian delegation are HRD Minister Kapil Sibal, Minister of State for Science and Technology, Prithviraj Chavan, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao.
The US delegation included Energy Secretary Steven Chu; Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns and Deputy National Security Adviser Michale Froman. PTI